The 64ft, British flagged GREY WOLF left her build yard Circa Marine in Auckland on 23 March bound east across the Pacific towards Panama and Lymington, where she plans to arrive in early summer. Her new owner Peter Watson is skippering a 6-man crew which includes apprentices from the Berthon Boat Company, the European agents for the FPB.
What on earth is an FPB?
An FPB is a planet-friendly motor yacht designed by Dashew Offshore and built in New Zealand for the sort of long, blue-water cruising passages which until now have been the monopoly of sailboats. With a range of 5000 miles at around 10 knots, the FPB offers an intelligent alternative to fuel-gulping, noisy, wash-creating power yachts.
Tom Cunliffe, who is handling the UK end of a blog dialogue with GREY WOLF and the Berthon apprentices, observed, ‘The very idea of making this particular 12,000-mile voyage in a relatively small, semi-production motorboat is ground-breaking. The probable weather is far from ideal and the start has already been delayed by a named cyclone in the South Pacific. The first leg of 2000 nautical miles to Tahiti is regarded as a potentially heavy-weather passage and the crew have rolled the dice, playing the odds in a notably active hurricane season. Following the blog over the whole voyage promises a frank human commentary from several young men who never expected to go to sea. It will also secure readers a private glimpse of life on the ocean in one of these remarkable boats.’
Because the FPB’s brief is to work with nature rather than battle to ‘conquer’ it, Peter Watson expects that some of his passages will involve significant detours from the Great Circle routes to optimise winds and avoid adverse weather. With modern meteorological data feeds, a real-world cruising speed of over 9 knots makes this entirely realistic.
Passage legs are:
Leg 1 – New Zealand to French Polynesia (11 days – 2225 nm)
Leg 2 – French Polynesia to Panama (22 days – 4450 nm)
Leg 3 – Panama to Antigua (10 days – 1150nm)
Leg 4 – Antigua to Bermuda (4 days – 950 nm)
Leg 5 – Bermuda to Horta (8 days – 1800 nm)
Leg 6 – Horta to Guernsey/Lymington (6 days – 1300 nm)
Berthon, who are the agents for the FPB Project in Europe, are working closely with owner Peter Watson who has generously offered to sign on six of their apprentices in turn as crew for successive legs of the voyage.
Peter Watson explained: `I regard this as a fantastic opportunity to give these Berthon apprentices the chance to experience some significant sea time. As a youngster it was always my ambition to go to sea and before moving into industry I served in the Merchant Navy for 4 years as a Radio Officer. The sea shaped my career and I have enjoyed yachting ever since. But they won’t just be along for the ride. The apprentices will become valuable members of the crew, not only as integral to the day-to-day running of the yacht, but also taking part in critical decisions on navigation and weather strategy.’
Keith Longman, Yard Manager at Berthon Boat Company says, ‘This is a life-changing trip for the apprentices and it was tough selecting six applicants from the twenty that were eligible. For me, the key was deciding who would benefit most from the experience in terms of professional and personal development. For the apprentices, this is more than just a delivery trip, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.’
Jack Gunstone-Smith (3rd Year Shipwright) is the apprentice crewing on the first leg from Auckland to French Polynesia. He has now spent some time at Circa Marine working alongside their own apprentices and getting his first taste of what the FPB motor yachts are about. His blog goes live today.
Bruce Farrand, the MD at Circa is convinced that, ‘investment in apprentices is vital, especially in this economic climate, to ensure there is no skills gap or a shortfall of expertise in the future, not just in New Zealand and the UK, but worldwide. Welcoming Jack to Circa has provided a one-off opening for him to see how we build these motor yachts with our own youngsters before he sets off on GREY WOLF.’
Sue Grant of Berthon International – ‘We will be thrilled to see an FPB arrive in Lymington from the other side of the world on her own bottom. These unique motor yachts offer a blue water cruising package that cannot be found anywhere else. We are also looking forward to the launch of Peter’s FPB 78’ in 2016 and to following her voyages to both high and low latitudes.
To follow GREY WOLF on her long voyage home, visit www.berthon.co.uk/greywolf